09 November, 2016

We’re all damaged by Matthew Norman

There is a certain pleasure to be had  reading well written books that look at life’s cruelties and pain points. Not in a comparing or judgmental sense but rather a wry recognition.

Matthew Norman’s novel hits the spot,  making you wince with recognition at how you find yourself, (at least once) as an  adult, looking around you in bewilderment and wondering how on earth this life differs so dramatically from what you had imagined.

Granted your life situation might not have the same checklist of disasters, as Andy Carter, the protagonist in this novel, yet there is something about a return to the family home, at any adult age and stage that causes an unpleasant frisson of nerves. Perhaps this is due to  the ghosts of hopes and dreams that seem to linger and mock you for your less than spectacular adult life.

Slightly too Eeyore in tone for you? It's not at all, but rather about seeing the past, looking it in the eye until it loses its power to shame or wound you, and then taking one tiny step after another to begin to overcome emotional inertia.

This was in fact the  perfectly timed book to read as I was in fact, on a visit south to visit my own family home.

I love the self deprecating humor of the protagonist Andy, he knows he is a mess;  it's hard to shame someone into making changes when they are all too aware their life resembles a train wreck. What better place to highlight the catastrophic failure of your adult life than a return to your hometown to visit a dying grandparent. Especially if the initial departure was more of an escape than a graciously executed rationally considered move to advance health and well being.

There is empathy for this character, he is lovable, ridiculously flawed, but then so is everyone around him. Sometimes having a scapegoat in our midst allows us to conveniently ignore that great hulking plank poking out of our own eye.

This is a light and tasty read, just like the cereal, it won’t bog you down, but offers enough substance to be enjoyable and engaging. Fans of Nick Hornby and Matthew Quick should enjoy this novel. And of note, we should all have a Daisy figure cross our paths at some point in life.  I imagine at the very least she would have some fascinating stories to tell.

Title: We're all damaged
Author:  Matthew Norman

Recommended by: Sue W (Central Library)

Sue W loves her fur babies equally but differently and used to administer time out to think about bad behaviours. However, since Patrick the fox arrived, she can no longer lock a miscreant in the spare room least Patrick is set upon.

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